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Five months after Hurricane Maria hit the United States’ Caribbean colony of Puerto Rico, swaths of the island still have no electricity, while food and water supplies have been slow to arrive, Democracy Now! reported on February 19.

When a democratic uprising broke out against the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in 2011, the regime responded with brutal repression. Aided by defections from the Syrian Army, this helped turn the mass protest movement into the armed conflict that wracks Syria today.

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a broad-based left-wing group largely initiated by Kurdish forces in Turkey, has faced the full brunt of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian crackdown.

More than 10,000 HDP members have been arrested, along with its leaders and dozens of elected officials — often on trumped-up charges of “supporting terrorism” in retaliation for the HDP’s support for the struggle of the Kurdish community for democratic rights.

The defeat of ISIS in Syria last year raised hopes that the long-running war that has displaced more than two-thirds of the population might be coming to an end. However, the attempted Turkish invasion of the Afrin region of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), which began on January 20, has underlined that the war is in fact intensifying.

On February 17, several thousand people from more than 30 community groups and unions marched through Sydney to demand the NSW state government fix the public transport system.

Andew Chuter, one of the organisers, told Green Left Weekly it was a “big achievement” to unite so many groups across NSW around this important issue.

“These sorts of campaigns tend to be quite localised, so getting people to see them as connected is quite significant. Some of those who took an active role in this rally had never been to a protest before.”

A final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal, which will reduce tariffs and other trade barriers between 11 countries in Asia and Latin America that amount to 13% of global GDP, was released on February 21.

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton reported that on February 14 Moreland City Council in Victoria passed her motion calling for an increase in the Newstart allowance. This follows similar decisions by 10 South Australian local councils prompted by campaigners from the Anti-Poverty Network.

The motion called for Newstart to be increased to the Henderson poverty line. Newstart is currently $177 below the poverty line.

The Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions (ATTAC) is an international movement for social, environmental and democratic alternatives that organises against free trade policies that grant huge powers to corporations at the expense of people and the planet.

The Anti Poverty Network (APN) Perth’s Graham Hansen spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Chris Jenkins about poverty in Western Australia and the key campaign areas APN will focus on this year.

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Can you briefly describe what was happening in WA when APN Perth was formed?

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